Planes, Autos, and Boats P. 3

Posted by: on Apr 5, 2014 | 4 Comments

Alliance1On Sunday, we set sail for the open ocean. We could see the water color change as we left harbor. Close in to Isla Providencia, the water changed between bright turquoise where it covered white sand to a deeper more green turquoise. But the ocean is a deep and endless royal blue. It’s absolutely nothing like our slice of the Atlantic or the Chesapeake Bay. The color is vibrant and unsullied. The photos of turquoise and royal blue waters aren’t edited. I have saltwater envy. But it’s comforting to know there are wild places. Before lunch we spotted flying fish. Flying fish look more like birds or little airplanes than fish from a distance. They skim along appearing and disappearing into the waves. The waves lap the hull of the ship and then dissipate into a long sea foam hiss. The ship lines creek against the wind. On a beautiful and calm day, it’s a lullaby.

The Caribbean Sea

The Caribbean Sea

While at sea the deck has to be manned at all times. So, the nine of us were divided into watches. Alex, Emily, Max, and I were one watch; and Merri, Steve, Laura, and JM were the other. Captain Greg floated between the two. This meant the day was divided into two six hour shifts and the night into three four hour shifts. Each watch worked a six hour and either one or two of the four hour watches each day. In other words, we were looking at very little sleep unless you’re excellent at immediately falling asleep at any moment, which I am not. Each watch performs boat safety checks regularly, checking the engine and various places for water and other warning signs. Watchers also steer the boat. There is no auto pilot on Alliance. On a calm day, steering isn’t so bad. You attempt to keep the boat on course with the compass, steering to a certain degree depending on the Captain’s course. On a windy pitch black night… it’s a whole lot more impossible. Additionally, the watch that is getting off makes coffee and breakfast, dinner, or lunch for the watch coming on (and sometimes midnight snacks). When you are not on watch, you can do what you want. Usually, people try to sleep. However, the schedule is hard to get used to. At the end of our three day sail, I was just starting to adjust.

Sunset over the Caribbean

Sunset over the Caribbean

Our first night out was clear and calm. The moon was bright until it set and all we could see were stars. We were close to the equator and could see the Southern Cross, a constellation that isn’t visible from most of the northern hemisphere. As the name implies, it looks like a kite or a cross. I also saw a shooting star. I live in a rural area and I grew up in rural Maine. But I’ve never seen the stars quite that clearly with absolutely nothing to dim them. All the days at sea ran into each other. The watch schedule left my days mixed up and even my hours. And although the ship was on US East Coast Daylight Savings Time, we at some point entered the equivalent of Mountain Time (2 hours difference). This meant to us the sun rose late and set late.

The day we arrived in Guanaja, we were joined by a group of dolphins. The dolphins surf the water off the bow of the ship. They swim in and out of the wake. It’s beautiful to watch them play. They left us before we reached harbor. We arrived around sunset with time to anchor and prepare dinner. This was the second leg of Alliances return trip. So, there were limited food stores. The islands have small groceries where you can buy eggs, cabbage, various tropical fruits, yucca, etc. Meals were hard to plan. Fortunately, we did catch two fish. The other watch caught a Tuna and Max caught a Wahoo. Those were meal savers. I usually don’t eat a lot of fish because I have access to a wide variety of plant-based foods. But I admit I was excited when Max pulled in the Wahoo. We were struggling to plan that night’s dinner.

Max and the Wahoo

Max and the Wahoo

We anchored the boat near a large white house constructed a top a rock surrounded by water. We dubbed this place, Castle Rock. There were quite a few small cays (pronounced keys) with structures on them. But Castle Rock took up the whole rock much like the village takes up the whole of one of the larger cays and not the main island. The main island has a few homes and the airport. There is also at least one small village. However, the majority of the people live on a cay off the main island. The whole cay is concrete. The houses are built all the way into the water. They are painted every bright color.

The village, Guanaja

The village, Guanaja

The first day we explored the near side of the island. We ate at a German restaurant owned by two German expats who have lived there for decades. We took a walk behind the restaurant through what seemed like a neighborhood although not anything like a US neighborhood. A dirt path led up the hill winding past the occasional dwelling or garden. On our way back to the boat, we stopped at a little sandy beach for a quick swim. We also explored the far side of the island. A local picked us up in his panga boat and carried us through the cut, past the airport and a light house to the other side of the island for a waterfall hike, lunch, and snorkeling and swimming. The restaurant was on top of the dock on stilts over the water. The dock had woven hammocks hanging on it. We stopped in first to inquire after lunch. In true island fashion, they suggested we hike first so the food would be ready when we returned. Our guide walked us to the head of the water fall trail and then left us saying, “Hay un camino. Solamente un camino. (There is only one path.)” At first, the one path was straight forward. And then we found ourselves with no path. So, we continued to follow the stream and then started to just scramble up the rocks in the stream bed. We did eventually reach the waterfall and never really found the top half of the path. The waterfall was cold and refreshing. The island draws it’s fresh water from this stream. It’s the dry season now. I don’t think we could have scrambled up the stream bed if it had been the wet season. The waterfall reminded me of the Cascades outside of Blacksburg, Va. This was a slightly smaller waterfall. But it had a similar feel, despite being a very different climate.

We returned to the restaurant for lunch. Max and I shared grilled shrimp with rice and salad. The restaurant had big open windows with no glass. The view all around was of the ocean. After lunch some people went snorkeling and some of us just took a lazy swim. I snorkeled long enough to see brain coral and then plopped myself in the shallows. To finish off our day, we stopped at the famous, Graham’s Place for pina coladas. Graham’s Place is a beach playground. It has Spring Break written all over it. There is a turtle pen at the dock with sea turtles, sting rays, and various other kinds of sea life. There are parrots speaking Spanish. The beach has kayaks you can borrow. There are even tables in the shallow water.

Sea Turtles in the turtle pen, Graham;s Place

Sea Turtles in the turtle pen, Graham;s Place

On Friday morning, we started our trip home. There are no flights from Guanaja to the US. The airport is one room with two desks. It has a single runway that you walk out onto for boarding. The planes are small. Security is a couple of policia with guns as large as they are. You can fly from Guanaja to the mainland and then ferry to Roatan (the larger island with direct flights to Atlanta and a few other US cities). Or you can charter a plane.

Max, Steve, Me, Merri and our plane

Max, Steve, Me, Merri and our plane

The four of us took a 1970s islander propeller plane from Guanaja to Roatan. Our pilot picked us up at 9:30 am. The flight lasted 30 minutes. We stayed low and the winds were calm. We had a fantastic view of the ocean and the islands. We spent our last day relaxing on the beach and at our hotel pool. Merri and I treated ourselves to massages. It was the best massage of my life, complete with pressure points. I wanted Max to apprentice with the masseuse.

Our trip home wasn’t without bumps and adventures. But there is only time for remembering the good and being grateful for the experience as well as having a nice home to come back to.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

4 Comments

  1. Beth
    April 6, 2014

    Wonderful! Makes me want to go!

    Reply
  2. Beth
    April 6, 2014

    Fantastic!

    Reply
  3. Harriet
    April 8, 2014

    Hali, that’s a wonderful travelog. I remember my first cruise – back in 1963 ten days on our friends’ the Homers 40′ yawl. Every single minute was important, and some of those pictures are still imprinted on my mind. So glad you got to do this!
    Lots of love,
    Grandma

    Reply
  4. Betsy
    April 9, 2014

    Hi Hali!
    What a lot of adventures you had! It can be very educational to get away from the influence of the “Western Technological Machine”…. gives you a sense of how big and varied the World is! It’s fun to read about all the places you went…. far off the beaten path! And there is nothing quite like being on the “floating island” that is a ship to make you aware of how small you are! Gives a whole new appreciation for the first adventurous sailors who crossed the seas without knowing where they were headed!

    Reply

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